Hip-Hop teacher James Deane on making dance fun for kids


13 June 2018

Hip-Hop dancer and teacher James Deane has an impressive career history. He’s danced in Jaden and Willow Smith’s music video “Find You Somewhere” and worked with international artists such as Enrique Iglesias and Terry Crews.

Ahead of his classes at ourSchool Holiday Workshops, we sat down with him to talk about his introduction to dance and his passion for working with young people.

How did you get started in dance and evolve to where you are now?

As a kid I use to love the Wiggles and would dance around to their music. I told my parents I wanted to dance so they put me in a dance class. After a few years of trying different dance classes and styles I finally found Hip-Hop at the age of 13 and from then it became my life. I would take classes, train myself at home, teach myself from video tapes of movies such as You Got ServedStep Up and Honey. I then moved out of home and trained extensively in Brisbane and LA. When opportunities in Sydney called, I moved to Sydney to further pursue my dancing career.

How do you connect to Hip-Hop on a personal level?

I love the freedom of movement, the grooves and the ability to dance in my own unique way.

How would you describe Hip-Hop for those who’ve never danced it before?

Hip-Hop originated from social dancing in the 1970s within predominantly African-American communities in New York’s Bronx. Later, the style evolved into popular moves such as the “Running Man” which was seen in the music video for “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer. A more modern example would be the song “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” by Silentó where the dance moves “Whip” and the “Nae Nae” became popularised.

Nowadays you will still see a lot of Hip-Hop choreography using old school Hip-Hop grooves as well as some newer grooves. Choreographers have the freedom to add their own personal moves and style.

Why do you love working with young people?

I love working with people of all ages and teaching them to dance. The satisfaction I see on their faces when they nail a combo or move makes me so happy. I also love seeing their own unique style and interpretation of my choreography.

What can students expect from your holiday workshops?

Heaps of FUN! I love to teach dance in a way where you learn some new moves and tricks while developing your skills and having a great time because that’s what it’s all about.

What is one piece of advice you think will benefit young people picking up dance for the first time?

Try different teachers and styles until you find the ones you like and take their class whenever you can. And when you’re not in class, just keep practising.

How do you make dance fun and challenging for kids?

I make dance fun by creating a positive and encouraging environment. I like to challenge my students by teaching them new skills and encouraging them to push their boundaries. Some fun tricks I love to teach are Waving, Finger Tutting and Breaking. I am a big advocate for positive learning environments so I always ask my students to support each other by cheering each other on.

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